You may be in the habit of sacrificing sleep to tackle some of the many tasks you need to accomplish. You might choose to give up a few hours of rest to reserve some time for yourself, or maybe you are one of the many who miss out on sleep because of unrelenting pain. Whatever the cause of your sleep deprivation, the effects can be detrimental.
Sleep Deprivation Intensifies Pain
If you have ever been sleep-deprived, you are likely aware of how too little sleep clouds your thoughts and affects your mood. Sleep deprivation can also cause and intensify pain. It’s true. In fact, the aches and pains you feel today can intensify over time. That’s because pain can modify the way your central nervous system reacts to pain signals. This is called central sensitization
. Sensitized people are more sensitive to pain, and their pain signals fade slower. Sadly, too many people assume their pain is normal.
The Cycle of Pain and Sleep Deprivation
Studies show that people who do not get enough sleep experience more episodes of aches and pains, stomach upset and other gastrointestinal disorders. But the harm does not stop there. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation can create a continuous cycle of intensified discomfort. That means you could experience more pain from lost sleep and lose more sleep because of increased pain. Those who suffer the effects of sleep deprivation are shown to be at a higher risk of developing inflammation and chronic disorders, creating more pain. Some of those conditions include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis (and other autoimmune disorders)
- Chronic migraines
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Muscle pain
Research Supports the Connection Between Sleep and Pain
As of now, science does not have all the answers. Some theories suggest that sleep loss increases inflammation and decreases dopamine. Reduced dopamine levels appear to reduce pain tolerance. Inadequate sleep also lowers serotonin levels. If you lack serotonin, you may notice symptoms of depression, increased anxiety and yes, increased sensitivity to pain. The connection between sleep and pain is noted in the following studies:
- Researchers at Harvard medical found that both chronic and acute sleep deprivation increase pain sensitivity. With chronic sleep deprivation, mice became increasingly sensitive to pain each day. Sensitivity to pressure did not present itself until the fifth day. Pain sensitivity normalized with the return of adequate sleep.
- In another study, a group of healthy people were deprived of slow wave sleep, the same sleep disturbance commonly found in fibromyalgia After three days, these healthy women experienced increased levels of physical discomfort, pain with reduced pain tolerance. Their resulting symptoms were quite similar to fibromyalgia.
- A review of 16 studies within ten countries evaluated the long-term results of sleep changes on physical health, immune system response and pain perception. In general, the sleep-deprived were found to have higher inflammation levels, elevated cortisol levels (stress hormones) and were twice as likely to have developed a chronic pain disorder. Subjects who lived with osteoarthritis who were able to improve their sleep, reported improved physical function.
Normally, pain serves as a warning, but for those living with chronic pain, sleep disturbances creates a vicious cycle. Pain interferes with sleep, and the lack of sleep intensifies pain. Researchers may not agree why sleep deprivation exacerbates pain, but many have concluded that sleep deprivation and pain are intricately linked.
Sleep Deprivation Decreases the Effectiveness of Pain Relief
If you find you typically reach for over-the-counter pain relievers after a night of too little sleep, you are not alone. But if you are sleep deprived, you may find that your pain relievers do not work as well. This is a well-documented problem. Studies confirm that improving sleep quality can help over-the-counter and opioid pain medications work more efficiently.
Improving your sleep may lessen your pain and decrease your risk of chronic pain disorders. We want to help you get the quality sleep you need. If your mattress holds too much heat to stay comfortable, if it no longer provides the support you need, visit Layla
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